Boothbay Region Historical Society

Early 1900s Boothbay Harbor Milkman, Part III

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 1:00pm

    Claude Miller was a milkman who lived on the east side of the intersection of Route 27 and Lakeview Road in West Harbor. He wrote a memoir in 1954 describing his years on his milk route. In 2000 Alton Swett, son of Chester Swett, gave the manuscript to the historical society. While not a skilled writer, Claude passed on details of his milkman career very well. He died in 1961. This article continues the prior ones about his years as a milkman, focusing on Boothbay Harbor residents’ memories of him which I’ve edited lightly. – Barbara Rumsey

    Miles Barter’s Memories

    Miles Barter of Boothbay Harbor wrote up his memories of Claude, which follow.

    When I attended the West Side School (now the Christian Science Church) on Oak Street in Boothbay Harbor in around 1953 and 1954, Claude Miller delivered milk to houses in that same neighborhood. He would park the old milk truck diagonally across Oak Street from the school in front of Walter Reed’s house, front wheels turned hard into the sidewalk, as a safety brake I suppose. That truck was old enough then for me to take note of it because of its age and for what it was being used. It was simply a sight to see even in the early 1950s. 

    We boys in town loved to go ice skating then. In the earlier parts of the winter we would search out bodies of water to skate on that were frozen enough so as not to fall through. Of course, the smaller ponds always froze first. I can’t tell you how many times Claude Miller chased us boys off the little farm pond in back of his house on the corner of Western Avenue and Lakeview Road. I never understood why as we really didn’t do anything bad that would prompt him to do that. I’m sure Claude Miller had a good reason for chasing us kids off his farm pond, probably worried about liability if one of us got hurt.

    After Claude passed in the early 1960s, my mother got a job as a town radio dispatcher in the old town office building on McKown Street. I think the town hired four dispatchers so there would be someone there 24 hours a day. One of the other dispatchers was Claude’s daughter (Florence) who moved back from Massachusetts to the old Miller house in West Harbor to take the job. She was a very nice friendly lady and a good friend of my Mother’s. I think they knew each other from their school days. 

    I wish I had the opportunity to have at least one conversation with him but it wasn’t to be. He and his old milk truck were intriguing; he seemed like such an interesting old man with a unique profession.

    Memories of Margaret Orne Kelly, Bobby Orne, and Red Pennoyer

    Margaret Tew of West Harbor relayed comments about Claude she’d heard from her mother, Margaret Orne Kelly; and she gathered memories from her cousin Bobby Orne, who grew up here, and her neighbor Red Pennoyer, a summer resident. Margaret’s family house at the bottom of Orne’s Hill served as a store and post office. Claude used his truck to move the post office that had been in their house up the hill, an instance of his supplementing his income with odd jobs, as was common.

    Margaret’s mother, a West Harbor native, told her Claude was often mean to the local kids. He used to hide behind the big tree on his corner of Lakeview Road and jump out from behind it to scare her when she was little, maybe when she was walking up to the school on Lakeview. On the other hand, Margaret’s sister remembers that Claude would let her and Reid Hodgdon herd his cows up to the other meadow on Lakeview Road when she was a child. This must have been in the late 1940s. Margaret speculated it might have been a relief to Claude to have some help with chores.

    Bobby Orne said Claude used to chase him and the other kids off his pond when they were skating, as was the case with Miles Barter. He also said the bright yellow urine from the cows used to run down the hill and across the road. The town crew would come over and put sand over it in the winter because it would freeze and be a hazard for vehicles.

    Red Pennoyer told Margaret Tew that his sister Anne worked for Claude Miller. Red said, “Anne rode in his truck and delivered milk. She was in her early teens and very pretty—much like your mother was all her life. Claude was kind of a character for the summer folk. He had a very much ‘down east’ accent and talked through his nose. We probably made him money so he was nice to us.” Despite the Pennoyers and Millers living across from each other, Red doesn’t remember ever seeing Claude’s wife. Local women usually stayed at home even into the 1940s and beyond, keeping a very low—nearly invisible—profile.

    This is the second time in my 32 years of writing local history articles that I’ve profiled a man who was generally regarded as disagreeable. Those are pretty good odds out of 685 articles. It’s nice to know his daughter was nice and friendly and that he was nice to Margaret’s sister. Maybe he was softer with women. Claude did us a favor by writing about his milk delivery days, and I’m only sorry more people don‘t write about their region lives. I thank those who had a part in this article.